Obvious trio pleads not guilty
Three suspects pegged by an eyewitness as the perpetrators of an April 11 daylight burglary and arrested with the reported stolen loot in their car entered not guilty pleas Monday in district court.
Joshua Damon Kingery, 23, James Eugene Church, 27, and Ryon Mitchelle Gates, 20, were each charged with burglary and felony theft following their arrest the same day the crime was reported. Kingery was also charged with misdemeanor counts of DUI third offense, driving with a suspended or revoked license and obstructing a peace officer.
In affidavits filed in district court, two Lincoln County sheriff's deputies involved in the case detailed how they were looking for the three suspects even before they learned of the burglary.
According to the affidavits, two separate callers had reported several people jumping in and out of traffic on U.S. Highway 2 about five miles south of Libby, begging for gas money. One of the callers offered information that the suspects were three men wearing tank tops, that all three had tattoos, and that they were driving a maroon car with a black bra on the front.
One of the deputies responded to the report at 6:22 p.m. but was unable to locate the suspects. He wrote in his affidavit that he was back on the highway just south of Libby, heading south again around 6:40 p.m. when he saw a car matching the one described by the caller passing him on its way toward Libby at an excessive speed. The deputy reported clocking the car at 78 mph using his radar.
The deputy turned around and pursued the car, which pulled over at the Saverite South service station. He was soon joined at the scene by the second deputy, who responded as backup.
The first deputy reported in his affidavit that he could smell alcohol on the breath of the driver, later identified as Kingery. He said Kingery was at first uncooperative, telling him he didn't have a driver's license but refusing to tell his name. After being placed in the back seat of a patrol car, Kingery became more belligerent and attempted to kick out a window, the deputy reported. The deputy reported in his affidavit that he used his Taser stun gun on Kingery, who then calmed down and became more cooperative.
According to the officers' reports, the other occupants were identified as Church, who admitted to being on probation out of Kalispell for a vehicle theft, and Gates, who was wanted on a local warrant.
When the second deputy contacted the county dispatcher in an attempt to contact a Flathead County probation officer about Church, he learned of the burglary. A resident of the Vicks Lane area had reported seeing three subjects matching the description of the three men being detained, driving a red car with a black bra, taking several guitars from a neighbor's home. The victim of the burglary was notified and showed up at the scene of the arrest, where he identified three guitars, a tackle box, an air gun and two CD cases as having been stolen from his home.
According to another affidavit filed by a detective who conducted a follow-up investigation, the neighbor who reported the burglary identified Gates, who used to live in the same neighborhood, as one of the suspects. The burglary victim also said he remembered Gates and that Gates had been in his home one time last fall but that he hadn't seen him since.